Several studies with knitters prove that the repetition of knitting enabled mindlessness for a period that was similar to meditation which has long been shown to lower blood pressure and reduce many signs of stress in the body and mind which lasted as long as the mindless periods were practiced. Another factor found to be important was the positive effect when women gathered to knit with friends. It's easy to compare quilting to knitting, especially handwork. But we've all heard women who are adept at machine quilting talk about the zone, that same mindless state of relaxation discussed here.
The friendship effect on females natural response to stress was recently demonstrated in a university's landmark study which showed that different chemicals than in male brains are released during these times of bonding. Oxytocin is the natural occurring chemical released in a woman's brain when she gives birth, breastfeeds and cares for children. The chemical dulls pain and buffers the automatic "flight or flight" chemical response. The numerous opportunities for meaningful conversations and sharing of feelings happen during a girl's night out, a quilting retreat or class, meeting for dinner, or talking on the phone. Here it is the meaningful connection that releases the chemicals, not the act of quilting itself.
As if these weren't reason enough to quilt, other studies show that when a person gives to a charity they believe in and feel good about the ultimate use of the donation, there are physical and mental that come from that act of doing good for someone else. Making donation quilts for children, elders, soldiers and others in times of need is nothing new to quilters. We give the gift of a quilt as a sign of our love for them in the form of a cozy fabric hug.
As a coach for creative women solo-preneurs, dealing with stress is a common theme especially for women today. Women do so much in one day it baffles the mind. Sew and quilting are not always available when stress is high at work or when you are too tired, or your eyes need a rest from close work. A paper and pencil are always handy. Journaling or writing out how you feel about your situation is another powerful stress reducer. Writing a detailed narrative of the upsetting events, past or present, that occurred in your life and most importantly your feelings about them, has been shown to be as effective at relieving depression as therapy and medicine.
This tip is easier to follow in some regions than others. Get 15 minutes of direct sunshine a day to build vitamin D and other chemicals you need in your body to sustain a stable mood. Seasonal Affective Disorder is a type of depression that is dependent on sunlight for relief. Prevent it by sitting or better yet taking a walk in the sunlight, while talking with a girlfriend! If you can not be in the sun because of climate, there are special light lamps available to use during those months.
Seeking friendships, quilting, giving, tackling solutions in chunks of time and focusing most of your thoughts on what is good about your life and gratitude for it, will help to sooth your mind and body. Without further effort on your part, chemicals will be released to help you cope until inevitably things will turn around and point you in an exciting new direction.